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Monday, 30 June 2014 12:47

Cricket Hill releasing Simcoe-hopped 2x IPA; pumpkin ale, Belgian dubbel in pipeline

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Cricket Hill Brewery is ushering in the second half of 2014 with a Simcoe-hopped double IPA.

Simcoenotic Imperial IPA (draft only, out July 1) is the latest installment in the Essex County craft brewery’s small batch series.

And while Garden State craft beer enthusiasts are getting to explore that brew, Cricket Hill is busy in the R&D department at its Fairfield digs, pilot-batching a first-ever Belgian dubbel and putting the finishing touches on what will be the return of its pumpkin ale.

Cricket-Hill-BottlingThe beers are among 15 on Cricket Hill’s 2014 release calendar, which features a sampling of small-batch and reserve brews, including their bourbon-barrel porter, a quartet of seasonals, and its recipe-tweaked flagship brews. (This year has already seen release of two small-batch brews: Smoked Rye and Jersey Devil Imperial Red Ale. See complete release calendar below.)

Simcoenotic comes in at 8.2% ABV, behind a sturdy wall of hops at 71 IBU. (Comparatively speaking, Ballast Point’s Sculpin is a shade lower in alcohol content, but around the same IBU). Cricket Hill teased the beer’s official release last week, putting it on tap June 27 in the brewery tasting room.

Simcoenotic finds Cricket Hill returning to well-hopped brews for a July release. This time last year, the brewery offered the hoppy session ale Big Little IPA.

It answered that 4.7% brew with a new-to-the-lineup pumpkin ale, a beer that also marked the first time Cricket Hill ever stepped away from the purity rule of water-, barley-, and hops-brewed worts handed off to the yeast for turning into beer. The pumpkin beer was a late-comer to Cricket Hill’s 2013 family of brews, released draft-only and limited to the brewery’s New York distribution.

“By the time we got it to where we were happy with the recipe, it was late, so we just did it draft and sold it in New York,” Cricket Hill founder Rick Reed tells Beer-Stained Letter. “You could get it in New York, and that was it.”

The pumpkin ale seasonal is on the calendar for late-summer release, available draft and in six-packs of 12-ounce bottles, with distribution in New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania.

Pilot brewing for this year’s pumpkin ale was done in late May. “It tastes very good; I’m excited about it,” Rick says. “If it translates well to big batch, we’ll have it locked in.”

Cricket Hill is also test-batching what will be a hearty Belgian dubbel for the end-of-year holiday season (targeted for October release). The beer is in the brewery’s small-batch series and is Cricket Hill’s first time brewing a dubbel.

“Eight and a half (percent ABV) is what we’ll try to do, a nice Christmas warmer. I’ve got a lot of hope that it’s going to do real well for us,” Rick says.

Now marking its 14th year in business, Cricket Hill entered New Jersey’s craft beer market with a flight of fuller-flavored beers aimed at winning over to craft beer folks whose go-to brews were Old Yeller: the pale, light lagers of Bud, Bud Light, Miller Lite, Coors Light, and the like.

As craft beer tastes evolved, especially as craft beer grew into real hot market, Cricket Hill chose to move past its original vision and stir some high-gravity brews into its lineup, notably its brewers reserve bourbon barrel porter, which returns toward the end of the year in craft and bomber bottles. (The brewery also updated its flagship beers, Rick says, giving them “a little more zing.”)

The Belgian dubbel is another Cricket Hill offering in that big-beer category, and would probably make a nice addition to its reserve series, not just being part of its small-batch beers.

Despite the minor shift in brewery focus, Rick says there are still plenty of beer drinkers to still be won over by good craft beers under any label, and especially Jersey-brewed ones.

“The market for beer in general is still so huge, it’s mind-boggling,” he says. “Craft beer holds a very small percentage of it. In New Jersey alone, if you get 1 percent of all the mass-produced beer drinkers to come to a craft, that could support all of the breweries in New Jersey.

“What we have to do is push the Jersey (brand). Live Jersey, drink Jersey is our motto. New Jersey makes some of the greatest things in the world, including beers.”



Read 2623 times Last modified on Monday, 30 June 2014 13:20

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